Movers & Shakers — Merrill Gardens Names New President

David Eskenazy Named President of Merrill Gardens

David Eskenazy has been named the president of Merrill Gardens, the company announced today. He replaces Tana Gall, who announced earlier this year that she was leaving the company to pursue other interests. Eskenazy will assume his new role effective immediately.

Eskenazy brings to the position more than 25 years of experience in operations. He was most recently chief financial officer at Aegis Living. During his five-year tenure there, he oversaw operations, finance, accounting, property development, financial planning and analysis, IT and investor relations.


Eskenazy also brings 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including nine years as chief operating officer for the R.C. Hedreen Company with oversight for the Seattle Hilton, Madison Renaissance and Grand Hyatt Seattle hotels.

He also serves on the board of directors for Outerwall (NASDAQ: OUTR), the operators of Coinstar, Redbox and ecoATM kiosks.

“I am confident that David will be an excellent leader for Merrill Gardens,” said Bill Pettit, president of the R.D. Merrill Company, parent company of Merrill Gardens. “I am impressed with his vision, expertise in team leadership and assembling talent. His strengths are his passion, creativity and strategic thinking and those are the abilities needed to successfully guide our company.”

Merrill Gardens is an owner/operator of assisted living retirement communities throughout the country. The company consists of 31 operating and development communities in five states. 

Essex Communities Welcomes Executive Director

Essex Communities, a Nebraska-based developer and operator of senior living communities, has announced the hiring of Kevin Blom as executive director of Mission Square, an independent living community located in Mission, Kans.

Blom joins the Essex Communities team with six years of senior housing experience in the western suburbs of Kansas City. Most recently, he held a leadership position with Shawnee Hills Senior Living in nearby Shawnee, Kans. In addition to his senior living experience, Blom has nearly 20 years of sales experience from across a diverse spectrum of industries.

Kandu Capital, Bloom Senior Living Hire Industry Veteran To Lead Operations 

Kandu Capital, LLC and its operating company, Bloom Senior Living, announced recently that they have hired 30-year industry veteran Benjamin Pearce to lead senior living operations as its chief operating officer.

Pearce, a Johns Hopkins University and New York University professor and award-winning author, will embark on a multi-year and multi-step process with Bloom to be the industry leader focused on culture, customer service, training, resident-centered health care and operations.

Over his three-decade career, Pearce has designed, developed, opened and managed more than 200 senior living communities in 33 states totaling nearly $1 billion in revenue for both startup and mature, private and publicly traded independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and continuing care retirement community (CCRC) companies.

Most recently, Pearce was the vice president of operations (Eastern District) for Holiday Retirement, overseeing operations and marketing for 71 independent and assisted living communities, serving 9,000 senior residents, located in seven regions across 14 states and spanning six time zones.

Prior to Holiday, he was the president and CEO of a privately held company, Potomac Homes, overseeing 15 communities dedicated to caring for seniors with Alzehimer’s and dementia.

Pearce also served as senior vice president of operations and vice president of operations, respectively, overseeing large portfolios at Genesis Health Care and Vi Retirement Communities.

He served as director of operations and vice president of operations at The Hillhaven Corporation, Careage Health Care Management and International Care Centers. 

Pearce has published six books on operations and marketing of senior living communities, one of which has been converted for use in the certification of administrators and as a required text at major universities.He also published 27 senior living e-books on Amazon Kindle.

He teaches Business of Senior Housing and Care as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s MBA Program, and is a faculty member at New York University’s Real Estate Institute.

He formerly served on many affiliations including the Board of Directors of the Assisted Living Federation of America; Massachusetts Assisted Living Facilities Association; National Association for Senior Living Industry Executives; and North Jersey Senior Care Network.

He has been part of the National Quality Assurance Program Action Team and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Resident Life / Assisted Living Success; Briefings on Assisted Living; and Assisted Living Executive Report.

Jeffrey Merritt Named Executive Director for East Ridge at Cutler Bay

Jeffrey P. Merritt, a 25-year career executive in senior housing, has been named executive director of East Ridge at Cutler Bay, Miami-Dade County’s only life care community.

Merritt is responsible for the management and operations of the community including, independent living, assisted living residences and nursing care services. He will oversee all related operations, including home health, engineering, maintenance, community relations, marketing, programs and events, food and beverage services and procurement areas.

He will direct the upcoming opening of the new $70 million health center now under construction as well as the additional improvements that are underway throughout East Ridge.

East Ridge at Cutler Bay, now 53 years old, began expansion and renovations last April with the demolition of eight residential buildings to make room for its state-of-the-art health center, the first to be built in Miami-Dade in the past 15 years.

Most recently, he was administrator and executive director of a 361-unit upscale community in Lawrence, Kans., following 15 years of experience in multi-facility operational management for Brookdale Senior Living.

Merritt was formerly associated with the Wellington Group Assisted Living, Inc. as a regional director of operations after providing similar services for two assisted living management companies in Missouri and Tennessee.

Georgia CCRC’s Executive Chef Earns Top Honors as ‘Chef of the Year’ 

Park Springs’ Executive Chef Derrick Henry recently earned the 2014 Chef of the Year Award for the Atlanta Metro, awarded by the American Culinary Federation-Atlanta Chefs Association. 

Since 2007, Henry has run four dining venues at Stone Mountain, Georgia-based Park Springs — a 54-acre CCRC developed and operated by Isakson Living — including the Market Café Bistro, the Main Dining Room, the Springhouse Grill and the Park Springs Pub.

He completed his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America, and was offered an externship at Le Bernardin in Manhattan, working for renowned Chef Eric Ripert. From there, Henry worked at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and Frungillo’s, a private catering company.

He went on to serve at The Fairfield Tara Hotel in New Jersey, and also worked under the direction of Executive Chef Enio Riga, personal chef of Johnny Carson of The Tonight Show.

On his first venture South, Henry was employed by Atlanta’s iconic restaurant, Pano & Paul’s in Buckhead, but because of family ties in New Jersey, he returned there and accepted a position with the BMW Corporation as executive chef in their head office in Park Ridge, N.J.

However, when Andy Isakson, managing partner of Isakson Living, offered him the position of executive chef at the resort-style senior community in Stone Mountain, Henry accepted.

Missouri Retirement Community Names Director of Nursing

Primrose Retirement Community of Jefferson City, Mo., recently announced Ashley Rackers has joined the team as director of nursing for the independent and assisted living community, according to local reports

In this role, Rackers will guide and oversee the overall care of residents and, in conjunction with Executive Director Sandy Kliegel, manage the nursing staff. Rackers will also ensure compliance with all necessary regulations.

A 2005 graduate of the University of Central Missouri, Rackers has been a hospital nurse and has held several leadership positions within skilled nursing communities prior to joining Primrose.

Ian Lee Brown Named Executive Director at Florida CCRC 

Covenant Village of Florida, a faith-based, nonprofit CCRC operated by Covenant Retirement Communities, has named Ian Lee Brown as its new executive director.

Brown is responsible for all operations at the senior living community, which serves residents in 294 residential living apartments, 21 assisted living apartments, 22 memory support apartments and a 60-bed skilled nursing center. 

Brown brings to the position more than 25 years of senior management experience in the senior living industry. Previously, he was senior vice president and chief operating officer of Christian Church Homes of Northern California in Oakland, Calif.

Prior to that, he served 12 years as a vice president and executive director of Baltimore-based Erickson Living. While at Erickson, he was recognized twice as Executive Director of the Year.

A graduate of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, he has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and speech communications. He earned a Master of Science degree with a focus in organization development/management and a graduate certificate in senior housing and health care from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. While at Johns Hopkins, he also served a year in the Health Leadership Institute.

Brown completed a Master of Liberal Studies at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill. Brown is a member of LeadingAge, the American College of Healthcare Executives and the National Association of Healthcare Executives.

Goodman Group Appoints National Director of Research, Development 

The Goodman Group, which develops and manages senior living and health care communities nationwide, recently announced the appointment of Dr. Phyllis Gaspar as national director of research and development for the organization. Her appointment was effective immediately.

Gaspar specializes in geriatrics and long-term care and has been a renowned researcher in the field. Before joining The Goodman Group, she was a professor at the University of Toledo. 

In her new role, she will focus on integration of established evidence into the care provided to seniors and the development of knowledge for innovative approaches promoting wellness of the seniors.

Gaspar brings more than 20 years of experience in geriatric and long-term care research to the position. She has previously worked with The Goodman Group as an expert consultant on Pearls of Life, a dementia program of The Goodman Group, which provides personalized care plans in a home-like environment at all of the organization’s memory care communities across the country

She has a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Nursing with a focus in Gerontological Nursing from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio and a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Gerontological Nursing Interventions from the University of Iowa.

She has a Master of Science degree in Medical-Surgical Nursing from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and a Bachelor of Science degree from the same university. She is a registered nurse. 

Additionally, Gaspar is a member of the American Medical Directors Association, Midwest Nursing Research Society and the Gerontological Society of America. 

Love & Company Hires Two Industry Insiders

Love & Company, a marketing, advertising and sales consulting firm specializing in senior living, has announced that Sara Wise and Nicole Hospelhorn have joined the firm, bringing years of marketing planning and strategy experience to the agency.

Sara Wise has joined the Love & Company team as the vice president of strategic services with extensive experience in senior housing and not-for-profit communities. 

Before joining Love & Company, Wise worked as the director of marketing feasibility at Erickson Living, a national developer of retirement communities in Catonsville, Md., and as the director of marketing services at Hamlyn Senior Marketing. 

Wise has experience launching new communities, as well as developing marketing plans and conducting sales and marketing audits for retirement communities. 

Nicole Hospelhorn was hired by Love & Company as the vice president of strategic services. As a former Erickson Living strategic marketing director, Nicole has extensive experience in senior living and has been heavily involved in the planning and execution of the integrated marketing, advertising and branding of several communities.

She helped grow Erickson from a small regional company to a business with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

Marcus & Millichap Promotes 3 to Senior Associate 

Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, the nation’s largest real estate investment services firm, has promoted Matthew Hazelton, Adam ‘AJ’ Prins and Jon Ruzicka, all in Marcus & Millichap’s Minneapolis office, to senior associate.

This designation signifies superior performance achieved by an associate during his or her sales career at Marcus & Millichap and in the investment real estate brokerage profession.

Hazelton, who began his career with the firm in 2006, specializes in the sale of retail and single-tenant properties. He has closed more than $88 million in transactions with Marcus & Millichap and has consistently been one of the top agents in the Minneapolis office.

Prins also began his career with Marcus & Millichap in 2006, specializing in the sale of retail and single-tenant properties. He has closed nearly $90 million in transactions since joining the office.

Ruzicka began his career with Marcus & Millichap in 2011, specializing in the sale of hospitality properties. During his career, Ruzicka has closed more than $46 million in transactions.

Written by Emily Study

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